Short Story Review: “The Future Eats Everything” by Don Webb

2 of 5 stars.

Tapping into the Lovecraft conundrum of presenting, ie knowing about, an unknowable entity or force creates challenges for telling Lovecraftian tales. Any Earthbound human, as most of us are, could only present limited narration when it comes to what is further out in the cosmos that hasn’t yet been crossed by satellites and probes. Unless one taps into supernatural visions but then is somehow able to give it the weight and credibility needed to be taken more seriously than a fever dream.

Austin, Texas receives grand treatment here as the setting for this tale with strong use of its topography and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, poor science undermines the plot nearly immediately. When a strange rock is found at a stony rift south of the city from which large strange creatures are crawling, a couple go to have the rock carbon-dated. To their surprise [and the readers], the worst scientist ever–and not just because he’s also sleeping with the wife in the couple–he declares that his carbon-dating found the rock to be from the future by 50,000 years. Huh?

Carbon-dating uses the normal distribution of carbon isotopes as a basis for aging rocks. The shift in ratio due to natural radioactive decay indicates the age of a rock. A shift in in the ratio away from what would be expected by radioactive decay would not force a conclusion that a rock was from the future. It would show that a rock is not from Earth–it’s a meteorite.

Hinging plot points on really bad science and later having characters know unknowable things from elsewhere in the cosmos creates a rift which even the suspension of disbelief cannot bridge.

This tale appears in the New Lovecraftian anthology, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran. I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Doom that Came to Devil’s Reef”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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